I was walking along a familiar and crowded route recently when I fell. I can’t tell you why I thought there was one more step though I could easily blame it on my glasses. I usually wear contacts but opted for my trifocals instead. I was not listening to music, gazing at a smartphone screen or talking to the person I was with. I was just walking.
And then I wasn’t. I was on the ground.
Two people rushed immediately to my aid and helped me get back on my feet. I assured them I was fine. I could feel my knee begin to swell and my arm and hand throb a bit, but no skin or bones had been broken. No clothing ripped.
I looked at the people I had fallen down next to; they were totally focused on their smartphone screens. They did not look up as I fell, after I fell, or when I was helped back up. (And in case you are wondering – these folks did not appear to me to be in their 20’s. )
One study reports that the average person checks their device an average of 85 times a day, spending a total of five hours surfing the internet and using APPs. That is almost a third of the time a person spends awake! Another study found that people were on their phone are almost twice as much as they thought they were! And a third study reports that people check their phones every 6 1/2 minutes – which roughly translates into 150 times a day!
It may be that NOT looking at the smartphone screen actually can create feelings of anxiety. If we are stressed out both because of technology and because we are not plugged in to technology, we are caught in a no-win situation. With the distraction of having the constant connection to social media, email, texts, and news, people can gain a short term comfort. No need to feel anxious because you are never really alone — unless there is anxiety due to the fear of missing out on something that might be going on without you.
Are you afraid to leave the house without your phone? There is a term for this: nomophobia! It means no mobile phone phobia. For hundreds of years we have managed to connect with others face-to-face. Now we seem unable to enjoy life in the moment without sharing with others that we are enjoying life in the moment.
Isn’t that what the practice of mindfulness is all about? It is the habit of paying attention in a focused way. With purpose, you are in the moment. When you are doing something you are focused on doing that one thing.
So if you are sitting and someone falls near you, you can notice and help them up.
Or maybe next time I’ll aim to fall ON them instead!